The coronavirus cannot be spread through postal packages from China or Chinese food – Minister Fearne
Although to date there have been no suspected cases of the coronavirus, the health authorities are taking all the necessary precautions to prepare for any eventuality. These include the screening at the airport of every passenger who arrives from China, while there are plans in hand on how patients suspected of having the virus can be isolated. During a press conference, the Deputy PM and Health Minister Chris Fearne made it clear that the virus cannot be spread through postal packages arriving from China or from Chinese food.
Dr Fearne said that, to date, there are no cases of the coronavirus in Malta – in China the virus has killed more than 130 people.
The Superintendent of Public Health, Prof Charmaine Gauci explained the precautionary measures which are being taken at the airport.
“We do not have any direct flights therefore we are seeing how to identify those people coming from China and in this way, we can screen them since we have an clinic right at the airport, and if we see that they have the symptoms and are coming from the place where the coronavirus is being transmitted, we can administer the test. We keep them in isolation at the airport clinic until the test result comes out.”
Minister Fearne explained that the test for this virus can be done at the lab at Mater Dei, and the result comes out in two hours. If the test is positive, other tests are carried out which can take six hours. Meanwhile, the person suspected of carrying the virus is kept in isolation. He announced that there will be a specific 12-bed ward at Mater Dei for patients infected by the virus who do not need critical care.
The Health Authorities have a plan for people who test positive for coronavirus to then trace all the people they came into contact with. Minister Fearne said that doctors, nurses and all health care workers who come into contact with a person who has the coronavirus will be given protective clothing and equipment.
Dr Fearne set the public’s mind at rest that the virus cannot be caught from Chinese food or postal packages from China. He explained that the virus outside of the body dies after 48 hours.
Questioned whether the Maltese who are in China will be brought back to the country, Dr Fearne said that the health authorities are in contact with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the World Health Organisation has not issued any recommendations in this respect.
A number of countries have taken precautionary measures so that the virus does not spread in their country.
In the UK, the people who arrive from Wuhan will be placed in quarantine for two weeks. British Airways has suspended the flights to and from China. To date, the virus has spread to 16 countries including Germany and France.
Australia is planning to place 600 of its citizens who had travelled to China in quarantine for two weeks on Christmas Island.